CageJunkies Exclusive – Jeff Smith on Bellator Debut
On September 28th it all starts to come together for Jeff Smith. After knocking on the door of a top level company for the better part of a year Jeff has finally been signed on to fight for Bellator Fighting Championships.
It was a little over twelve months ago that Jeff Smith started being a regular feature in the mix of Cage Junkies articles, now the 10-1 featherweight is making his Bellator debut and is looking to extend his win streak to eleven wins with his last loss being back in 2009 (exhibition bout for The Ultimate Fighter aside). Taking on 13-2 Alexandre “Popo” Bezerra who this year lost his first fight in three years will be a good test for Jeff, however he does know that it’s going to be tough. “It’s been a long time since I have lost a fight” Jeff started “Popo is coming off a loss and that’s always dangerous. He is going to be hunting for that win at all costs.”
Taking a big step up in competition is something that Jeff is looking forward to “Popo is arguably one of the top twenty guys at 145. His only two losses are to Charles Oliveira who fights in the UFC and to Marlon Sandro who is one of the best guys in the division. I am really looking forward to this fight and I think it’s going to be a tough one.” Jeff explained. When questioned on Bezerra’s ground game and eight submission victories Jeff was confident in his abilities on the floor. “I’m not too worried about that. I think that when the fight starts to not go the way he wants he will try and take me down and try and pound me out but I am confident in what I can do on the ground.” When the action does inevitably hit the ground, Jeff is hungry for a finish this time around “I haven’t had a finish in a while so I really want to get it in my debut. At the end of the day though a win is a win and I am ready to go three rounds” he stated. Having fought for so long around the local Pennsylvania circuit Jeff welcomes the step up to an internationally broadcasted show and is looking to show that he can hang with the best.
Conscious of the fact that in the past he has had to cut a lot of weight and that it can affect his cardio, Jeff has been working harder in the lead up to this bout to keep his weight where he needs it to be. “I am walking around at 153 (pounds) at the moment” Jeff explained. “My last fight I had to cut nine to eleven pounds the day before the fight and it was hard. I have been working really hard to stay in shape and being ready to go three rounds if I have to” he continued. “Other than that it’s just business as usual for this fight. I am taking some of my camp to New York before the fight but other than that I am going into this one with the same mindset; it’s a fight I have to win.”
For Jeff, fighting with Bellator isn’t just a short term project. “Coming out of this one with a win would see me 11-1 and I would hope that I would get the call-up to one of the tournaments. I would love to fight for the title at some stage but I am taking it one fight at a time at the moment. I know that Popo is going to be tough but I think I have what it takes to get the win” Jeff explained. “This is going to be a big step up for me and I am ready to give it everything that I have.”
For his Bellator debut Jeff is still actively seeking sponsorship. “I am still looking for people who want to support me in my debut. I have a couple of local sponsors but if anybody wants to jump on board they can certainly let me know” he said. “You can be sure that I am not going away, so get on board early!” Jeff laughed.
Although this is far from a “do or die situation” for Jeff who is making his debut in what is more than likely a multi-fight deal with the company Jeff still knows that a win is vital. There are a lot of critics out there that base his skills inside the cage on his exhibition performance on TUF Live, for those critics this will be a good chance to see what Jeff can really do inside the cage. This is one of those unique scenarios where Jeff will get the chance to make a first impression all over again.
Be sure to tune in to Bellator 74 on September 28th on Spike TV to watch as Jeff fights his toughest opponent to date!